Exchanging Contracts – What can hold up the process?

At Seymours, we know only too well that exchanging contracts represents the end of the long and often arduous process of buying, or selling, your home. We spoke with Stewart Palmer, the resident partner at our Godalming office to gain his experience to share with you.

Up until the moment the already signed contracts are handed over, neither party is legally obliged to go through with the sale, Stuart says – it’s partly because this exchange represents the moment of no return that it can become so protracted and fraught with angst. It’s also by no means a fast process – it takes on average two months in the UK to exchange contracts, and can take much longer which is why we have dedicated sales progressors to help assist wherever possible. 

In my experience, these are some of the things which might hold up the process, some avoidable, others not!


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Common reasons the contract exchange process can get delayed 

Solicitors enquiries

The solicitor you hire to conduct your searches has to ask the authorities an abundance of questions, in order to determine any number of things from flood risk to whether or not the property is in a conservation area.

These authorities are notorious for being slow to answer enquiries, something which can’t be sped up. Over the years we have forged strong relationships with solicitors and I would be happy to recommend some to you if needed. 

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Buyer/seller hesitations
Both buyers and sales can deliberately hold up the process for any number of reasons, from being fiscally ill prepared to reconsidering matters of preference. 

This is often unavoidable, and simply requires patience – you may think you know what the other side is thinking, but it’s not worth playing mind games over. In my experience, superb communication from the agents helps to keep things together which is where our dedicated sales progressors come in to play.

Mortgage issues 
If a mortgage is required, any delay on the side of the mortgage provider can cause delays to the whole process. 

Mortgage issues can most often be sorted out at much earlier stages in the process, so this would come under the ‘avoidable’ section. To speed up the process, it’s advisable to have an ‘agreement in principle’ mortgage before you’ve even found the house you wish to purchase, something many banks will offer.

Unanswered questions 
If either side, most often the seller, hasn’t satisfactorily answered the questions of the other, delays may be caused until the question is adequately answered. This can be employed as a stalling tactic, so watch out.

For those unfamiliar with the term, gazumping means accepting a higher offer for a house when an offer has already been accepted. 

Up until the moment the contracts are exchanged, this is still legal, even if questionable morally. If a buyer is serious about purchasing a house, they should try not to protract the sale on their side. 

That’s not to say rush by any means, no corners should be cut, but if a seller thinks that their buyer is getting cold feet, it’s natural that they might start looking at other options, especially if they’re depending on the sale.

Slow or busy solicitors 
This issue can occur on either side – solicitors, like anyone, can be overworked, and if they have a deluge of client requests at that time, they can be delayed in handling their duties. This is not always avoidable – good solicitors can still be swamped, but it is less likely.

When it comes to selling your property, you need a team that you can rely on. 

Take a look at the reasons why you can rely on our team at Seymours, or if you’d rather hear from a member of the team simply get in touch at your earliest convenience. 

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